Sebastien de la Cruz, the 11-year-old “boy with the golden voice” from San Antonio, returned last week to Game 4 of the NBA finals to sing the National Anthem after his performance at Game 3 prompted disgusting hateful vitriol on Twitter.
Sebastien, who gained early fame through his mariachi performances on NBC’s America’s Got Talent trying to raise money for his brother’s surgery, had been invited to sing the Anthem in San Antonio on Tuesday at the AT&T center, following the last-minute cancellation of Hootie and the Blowfish’s Darius Rucker.
He then endured a slew of bigoted backlash, as the sticky underbelly of the internet began expressing its xenophobic frustration at a Latino boy singing the National Anthem. Imagine!
WATCH: Sebastien’s Game 3 Performance
“Why they got a Mexican kid singing the national anthem?” wondered one Twitter user. “How you singing the national anthem looking like an illegal immigrant?” said another.
“Why is a foreigner singing the national anthem. I realize that’s San Antonio but that still ain’t Mexico.”
(I’m not naming these individuals, as earlier media outlets have done, as Twitter has already taken up a pretty disgusting volley directed back at them. It is neither impressive nor progressive, and altogether knocked the internet down a few more pegs.)
De la Cruz, an American citizen and San Antonio native, responded with a grace (not to mention a grasp of English) that far exceeded much of the internet’s trolls.
“My father was actually in the navy for a pretty long time,” he said, “and I actually salute him today for that. I just wanna thank him and to be able to sing the national anthem. People don’t know, they just assume that I’m Mexican. But I’m not from Mexico, I’m from San Antonio, born and raised. True San Antonio Spurs fan.”
He was invited back to Game 4 yesterday, introduced by San Antonio mayor Julian Castro. “Sebastien de la Cruz,” Castro remarked earlier this week, “your rendition of the national anthem was spectacular! Don’t let a few negative voices get you down.”
WATCH: Sebastien’s Game 4 Performance
It is indeed depressing that a gifted 11-year-old be made the digital punching bag for an aging class of frightened xenophobe, anxiously watching at a dynamic and changing landscape of America that takes on more talent, diversity, and vibrancy by the day. But it’s perhaps all the more promising that tomorrow’s America is bright, led by kids like Sebastien de la Cruz, who represent everything that was and is great about this country.
“Please do not pay attention to the negative people,” de la Cruz said. “I am an American living the American Dream. This is part of the American life.”